Neo believes that Morpheus, an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can answer his question — What is the Matrix? Neo is contacted by Trinity, a beautiful stranger who leads him into an underworld where he meets Morpheus. They fight a brutal battle for their lives against a cadre of viciously intelligent secret agents.
– from unknown.
In 1999, when The Matrix came out, I was a teenager and I was becoming a fan of Keanu Reaves as I had really enjoyed him in Speed, Point Break, Chain Reaction and a range of other films (though he definitely had some real misses in the 90’s) so The Matrix was more or less designed to appeal to me.
And appeal it did.
A dark and menacing future where humans had become enslave by machines but for a small group of freedom fighters who would enter The Matrix (which for a very convenient and quickly glossed over reason looked exactly like the modern world) to achieve a range of poorly defined objectives. Okay, my teenage self was not that discerning a viewer and the fight sequences coupled with the glossy leather outfits was pretty much all it took to get me on board with this one.
After the consecutive disappointments of both follow up films though, I kind of moved on and it was only recently when I had the opportunity to see this film again.
Visually, it still works. The designs chosen for the ‘real world’ compared to the simulated spaces the create for training compared to the actual matrix all fill their role and have their own kind of charm. There’s a lot of attention to small details in the sets and the spaces fill lived in (other than the training areas which are obviously supposed to feel a bit void of personality).
I didn’t really notice it as a teenager, but the sound design for this movie is horrible. I get the mix they were going for and the tone they were trying to strike but some of those sound effects just hurt the head and the thought of computers making any of those noises these days is kind of laughable. Though back in the 90’s days of dial-up internet I guess audiences were happy to swallow that because it was hard to imagine any sound more obnoxious than that one.
However, for all that this is a visual feast and there are still some really interesting ideas being thrown about, the overall storyline is plagued by attempting to be overly complex for what really amounts to a man vs machine conflict and their reasons for actually entering the matrix don’t make a lot of sense when the real conflict is occurring out in the real world (I know they throw around a lot of fast words and fancy rhetoric but ultimately none of the conflict needed to be based in the matrix so Neo’s ability to seemingly control it by the end of this first is more or less a pointless gimmick – and that is yet another reason why I should stop watching sequels).
And of course, I can’t actually avoid the main issue I found with the movie, which of course are the performances. For a film packing some real star power the performances delivered here are about as subtle and nuanced as the woman in red is in the training area. Most characters have at most 3 facial expressions and tend to wear one the majority of the film only changing to one of the other two at minor climactic moments I guess to remind us they can actually emote. While we might excuse Hugo Weaving for this, given he is playing a program, the human characters can’t possibly hope to escape from scrutiny.
Yet, for all that I’ve just kind of run the film down, the one undeniable point is that it is still fun to watch (providing the volume isn’t too loud). Scenes transition smoothly one from the next, usually with a sense of movement and purpose, and where logical leaps fail the audience a character is usually quick to swoop in with an explainer to sweep away any pesky questions you might have about what the point of something is (even if that explainer doesn’t really hold up under closer scrutiny). The fight sequences are still impressive, even if the special effects, once pretty cutting edge, are now just same old or even dated. And did I mention the number of very cool leather jackets in this film? The wardrobe alone is worth watching this film for.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this film and how you feel it has aged.
Thanks for reading.
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21 thoughts on “The Matrix Movie Review: What is acting? How do you define acting?”
I absolutely love it.
“Most characters have at most 3 facial expressions” – that’s true, but I think it suitedt he film. They paid more attention to other details that were extremely developed.
True, it definitely suited the style they were going for.
Reblogged this on WILDsound Writing and Film Festival Review.
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It’s been quite a while since I have first seen this movie too. I remember the first time I saw this I was really disappointed by it, i expected way more and I did not really understand much of what was going on either. The second viewing happened pretty soon after the first one, and then it just clicked. I enjoyed it a lot. I actually have to rewatch this to see if it has aged well. I might just do that at some point this month. But you are right about the acting though. It was really not too well, although I do have to say that I did like Hugo Weaving’s role 😊
Hugo Weaving was awesome in this first movie. They kind of overdid it in the next one though.
True enough, the sequels just completely went of the rails. There were some cool scenes in them, but mostly they were just very bad movies that could have been so much better.
I think they just need to learn when to stop and turning everything into a series, trilogy, or whatever is not necessarily a good idea.
Honestly, all I remember at this point are the leather outfits and Laurence Fishburne. I think I enjoyed the first movie and stopped watching the second halfway in.
The costumes for the characters definitely had some style (whether you liked that style or not is entirely subjective but it was at least memorable). Good plan quitting on the second. It doesn’t get any better as it goes on.
While the first movie was good, the other two made no sense to me. That or I lost interest.
No, the other two definitely go for needlessly complicated and as a result don’t make a great deal of sense when you think about them. Eventually they pull out a plot but there’s a lot of clutter and unnecessary going on in them.
Couldn’t agree more, especially on the second one! Filler city, & the roommate I had at the time watched it 60 times a day, oi.
You just pushed me into a roller coaster of nostalgia!
Hopefully you have a fun ride.
Yes I did!
As a young teenager of 13 or so, I was obsessed with the Matrix trilogy. They were among my favourite movies at the time, and I’ve seen them more times than I could possibly ever remember.
Nowadays, I still consider them to be pretty great movies, barring the third one which was a little disappointing for a climax to an otherwise fantastic story, although the ending itself was solid both thematically and narratively.
The visuals and directing are fantastic for their time, and have aged brilliantly and the movies parallels to religious stories and figures remains fascinating.
And of course, the fight scenes are top notch. The last 40 minutes of the film are just full of pure adrenaline and I love every minute of it.
Despite my above praises, I do agree that the movie, and it’s sequels, do try a little too hard to be more complex than what they actually are, making some things feel a tad silly at times.
I hope to see you talk about the other two films at some point!
I’d have to rewatch them and to be honest, I’m not that keen on doing so. I really didn’t like the second movie at all and the third movie really just tried a little too hard. Still, reviewing the first movie was a nice nostalgia trip to my teens and I enjoyed it,
Haven’t watched it in awhile but I still remember loving it the last time I saw it. Overall when I think about it the performances weren’t that standout but the concept itself really was. It’s got a real slick look that makes it stand on it’s own. So even if it’s not perfect in every detail it is still amazing because there isn’t much out there that is similar and on the same level. As far as the other movies are concerned…they don’t exist to me.
Definitely an interesting concept and at the time pretty fantastic. And it hasn’t aged that badly so all and all still a good film to get into on a Sunday night for a bit of fun.